Osho's fake adoption

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This story is a big story, with many threads and involving the apparent connivance of many people. It happened at the Ranch, and in fact could only have happened there, and so of course at the center of it all is Sheela ...

The basic circumstances are:

  1. In 1984, Osho's legal status in the States is in jeopardy, his legal options circumscribed at every turn by the state and federal governments, acting in an atmosphere of general public hostility, which arose both from prejudice and, it must be said, from the bristling, abrasive negative PR work of Sheela and her deputies. (See Veena's article about her time as a Ranch tour guide for a good account of that.)
  2. Quasi-miraculously, the (Sleight-of-)Hand of Existence produces a document and accompanying testimony which will be a bullet-proof way for Osho to get permanent resident status.
  3. This document purports to be a legal record of Osho's adoption, at age four, by an acquaintance of Osho's father, an unmarried Gujarati man. The reason for the adoption is said to be predictions by Varanasi astrologers that Osho might not live beyond age seven unless he were to be adopted.
  4. And who does this adoptive father turn out to be but someone who soon marries, eventually gets permanent residence in the States (and can thus gain such status for his family) AND is the father of Ma Anand Sheela?

How convenient is that? How believable is that? This page and its discussion page will explore these questions. First, our sources. How reliable might they be?

The wiki has acquired decent-quality images of the purported adoption document from 1936, below. Images of the doc were also reproduced in the Ranch's newspaper, along with the story, but of lesser quality. These images languished in boxes of photographs from the ranch, only re-appearing in Jun 2021 (story of that to come). We hope to be able to transcribe and translate the handwritten Gujarati, stay tuned!

The central item of intrigue in this story is that the supposed adoption was kept a secret, revealed only in 1984. We'll leave for now the question of how many people were in on the secret, and follow first the public story as it unfolded.

The first the public knew any of this was Feb 3 1984, on publication of Vol 2, Issue #23 of The Rajneesh Times (USA). The paper explained that Sheela's father, Sw Swarupananda Bharti was revealing for the first time in 48 years the secret of this adoption, which -- whaddya know!?! -- would help Osho in his fight to stay in the States.

(The image of the front page can be enlarged to readable quality. There is also a text version here, which has, additionally, the continuation of the story in an inner page. Missing from the wiki's coverage so far are three other related stories on that inner page plus the follow-up stories from the next issue (#24, Feb 10), but we're working on that.)

What does Osho say about this adoption? Here we might think we can easily get to the nub of the matter, since Osho has said so much about everything, but straightforward it is not.

The problem here is that Osho has said very little about it, there being only two records of his words on the subject, and one of them appears to be inauthentic. We'll get to the inauthentic one shortly but first, the following is the only verifiable record of his words pointing to this adoption. It is part of an interview with two reporters from Der Spiegel:

The Last Testament, Vol 1
Chapter #2
Chapter title: I Change With Reality
19 July 1985 pm in Jesus Grove
[NOTE: This discourse is published in the book: The Last Testament, Volume 1, as Chapter 5.]
ERICH WIDDEMAN & RAINER WEBER
DER SPIEGEL
Q: WOULD YOU PLEASE FOR OUR AUDIENCE GIVE A BRIEF RUNDOWN OF YOUR BIOGRAPHY AND YOUR FIRST ENLIGHTENMENT? WHAT HAPPENED? AND HOW?
A: I don't have any biography. And whatsoever is thought to be biography is utterly meaningless. On what date I was born, in what country I was born, does not matter. What matters is what I am now, right here.
Q: SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, FOR INSTANCE, FOR THE AMERICAN IMMIGRATION AUTHORITIES IS WHETHER YOU WERE ADOPTED BY AN INDIAN GENTLEMAN WHO IS AN AMERICAN CITIZEN, FOR INSTANCE. COULD YOU ELABORATE ON THAT?
A: Everything has been explained to them. All the documents have been given to them. Now it is for them to decide. If they decide against me I am going to fight up to the Supreme Court.
Q: THAT MEANS THEY HAVE NOT YET ACCEPTED THE EXPLANATION?
A: Four years those lousy people are just sitting there, doing nothing -- no decision this way or that.
Q: I UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR REAL ESTATE AGENTS HAVE STARTED PURCHASING PROPERTY IN THE HIMALAYAS. IS THAT TRUE? DO YOU PLAN TO MOVE?
A: No. I don't plan to go anywhere. I am going to be here.
[ ... ]
Q: BUT YOU BROUGHT IN TRUCKLOADS OF DISPLACED PERSONS AND DRUNKARDS AND WHAT NOT JUST TO INCREASE YOUR VOTING POWER. CAN'T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT PEOPLE ARE A LITTLE BIT AFRAID OF YOUR TACTICS?
A: We did not vote at all! They were absolutely creating the whole situation.
Q: BUT WHY DID YOU BRING IN ALL THESE PEOPLE?
A: They are still here.
Q: JA, BUT THEY WERE NOT SANNYASINS... ARE THEY?
A: A few of them are still here. A few of them have become sannyasins. Those who wanted to leave, they left. We brought them because we wanted to share something with them. Next year we will bring someone else. Next year... every year after our annual celebration we have enough money to share.
Q: OR IT JUST SO HAPPENS THAT THIS COINCIDED WITH THE ELECTION DATE?
A: It was just a coincidence, and we did not vote at all.
Q: SO IT WAS THE SAME KIND OF COINCIDENCE WHEN YOU DISCOVERED THAT YOU WERE ADOPTED... WHEN IT JUST CAME IN HANDY FOR THE IMMIGRATION AUTHORITIES?
A: No. It is not a question of my declaring it. I was myself not aware up to that point that I was adopted in my childhood. It was a secret pact between Swami Swarupananda and my father. They were friends. And it was just superstitious astrology. Astrologers said that if I was not given in adoption I would die, and I should be given to somebody who does not belong to my family, does not even belong to my caste, to my religion... somebody utterly a stranger.
Q: BUT SOMEBODY MUST HAVE KNOWN THAT ALL THE WAY.
A: Only Swami Swarupananda and my father. Those two persons knew it all the way. My father is dead, now Swarupananda is the only person who knows, and who has all the documents. So when he declared, I came to know about it.
Q: WELL, I'M QUITE AMAZED BY THAT HIGH RATE OF COINCIDENCE.
A: It is not a coincidence. It happens in India every day. If people are told by astrologers that their children will die, it is good to let them be adopted that way they think they are going to deceive the stars and death, and everything. It is foolish, but it happens every day. And they kept it a secret pact between themselves....
Q: UNTIL THEY COULD USE IT, OR UNTIL SOMEBODY COULD USE IT.
A: There was no question.... Yes, my father told Swarupananda, "If there is any need any day, you are authorized, he is your son."


see also
Osho's fake will, another mysterioso document surfacing many years after its purported creation to serve a current perceived need